In the Western world, cottage cheese is nearly synonymous with dieting and all things related to the pursuit of skinny.
The poster child for losing weight since the misguided lowfat dogma of the 1950’s took hold and escorted Westerners down a path to even greater weight and health challenges, cottage cheese is typically served with sliced fruit on top as an ultra low calorie meal.
While certainly a nutritious, traditional food (Little Miss Muffet was probably eating something similar while sitting on her tuffet), cottage cheese in the modern sense has, for the most part, seriously lost its way.
Supermarket and even organic healthfood store cottage cheeses are highly processed, lowfat concoctions that are more likely to trigger binge eating than satisfy and proactively assist with sustainable weight loss goals.
This is because the skim milk from which the cottage cheese is made, organic or not, has had all the nutrient dense cream removed and has been pasteurized at high temperatures destroying nutrition (Vitamins C and E, B12, B1, B2, folate) along with complete obliteration of digestive enzymes and beneficial microbes known as probiotics.
And, as anyone who truly understands nutrition knows, skim milk and anything made with it encourages weight gain much more readily than helps you lose weight! Just ask any pastured pig farmer – skim milk is a key tool to get the pigs really fat!
Sourcing Truly Healthy Cottage Cheese
Finding probiotic and enzyme rich, full fat cottage cheese is very difficult if not impossible depending on where you live. And, if you’re lucky enough to source locally, chances are it will be from a small grassfed dairy.
As a result, if you’re a cottage cheese lover like I am, it’s best to learn how to make it yourself. Fortunately, the process of making truly traditional cottage cheese is simple and when you handcraft and consume curds and whey in this manner, it really will help you with your weight loss goals because, in a word, it will truly satisfy!
Cottage Cheese: Perfectly Probiotic, Enzyme Rich and Full Fat
The best recipe for full fat, raw cottage cheese (newsflash: the way it’s supposed to be) that I’ve seen is actually illustrated in The Nourishing Traditions Cookbook for Children.
That’s right, healthy cottage cheese is so simple to make a child can actually do it!
If you want to teach your children the basics of traditional cooking, this lovely little cookbook is a must have. It’s spiral bound for easy page flipping by little hands and contains ingredient illustrations instead of hard to follow ingredient lists. My daughter and I have been poring through it this summer to expand her culinary knowledge. I highly recommend it for anyone with children 10 and under.
Perfect Cottage Cheese
Makes 2 cups
2 quarts raw grassfed milk
1 cup kefir or full fat yogurt (I like this brand)
1/2 tsp sea salt
Pour the milk into a large mixing bowl (I use these glass bowls). Cover the bowl with a plate and leave it in the refrigerator until all the cream rises to the top. This might take up to 24 hours.
Skim off the cream with a spoon or easier still, a stainless steel turkey baster, and save it in a pint sized glass mason jar or similar container in the refrigerator (hint: you will use it later!).
Mix the kefir or yogurt into the milk with a spoon. Cover the bowl with a plate once more and leave on the counter at room temperature until the milk thickens like yogurt. This is what is called the curd and it will take 1-2 days depending on your home’s temperature and the freshness of the raw milk.
Using a knife, cut the curd in the bowl into tiny squares by slicing through it from top to bottom and left to right. Try to keep the cuts no larger than 1/4 – 1/2 inch (.64 cm – 1.3 cm) apart.
Fill a medium sized pot with filtered water about 1 inch deep. Put the pot on the stovetop with the burner set to low heat. Place the bowl of curds with the plate removed on top.
Test the temperature of the curds every 5 minutes with a candy thermometer (I use this one). After each 5 minute check, stir the curds for a few seconds. Continue with this process for about 30 minutes (6 – 5 minute checks) until the curds reach 110 F/43 C. All enzymes and probiotics will be preserved if you only heat to this low temperature. How to know? If you stick your finger in and don’t get burned, no destruction of beneficial microbes or enzymes has occurred. This would happen if you heat the milk higher than 117 F/47 C, which is why it is so important to keep checking the cottage cheese every 5 minutes to ensure that the temperature doesn’t get too high.
Remove the bowl from the heat when the desired temperature has been reached and separate the curds from the whey with a strainer set inside a mixing bowl. The curds will stay in the strainer and the liquid whey will run into the bowl underneath.
Rinse the curds still inside the strainer with cold, filtered water. Be sure to very gently stir the curds with a spoon until all the water drains out.
Put the curds in a container and mix with the sea salt and reserved cream you have in the refrigerator. You now have raw, full fat cottage cheese with all the beneficial probiotics, vitamins and enzymes from the raw milk still intact! Cottage cheese is delicious freshly made, but be sure to refrigerate any leftovers. In my experience, this truly traditional cottage cheese lasts for several weeks in the refrigerator.
* Many thanks to author Sally Fallon Morell for generously allowing the sharing of this recipe and ingredient illustration from The Nourishing Traditions Cookbook for Children.
Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist
More Information on Healthy Cheese
If learning to make cheese is exciting to you, check out my other cheesemaking posts here:
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